Mike Trout is a ridiculous talent. The fact that he turned 21 in early August and, as a rookie, is even in the conversation surrounding the American League Most Valuable Player is astounding. And a case can be made that he could win the award.
But Detroit's Miguel Cabrera should win the hardware this season.
A head-to-head comparison of the two certainly points to how remarkable Trout's performance has been during his rookie campaign, but also highlights how impressive Cabrera has been at the same time. Consider how the two stack up against one another offensively.
Cabrera: 203 (second in AL behind Derek Jeter)
Cabrera: 109 (second in AL behind...)
- Home Runs
Cabrera: 44 (leads AL)
Cabrera: 137 (leads AL)
- Batting Average
Cabrera: .329 (leads AL)
Trout: .325 (second, behind Cabrera)
- On-Base Pct
Cabrera: .393 (fourth in the AL)
Trout: .398 (third in the AL)
- Slugging Pct
Cabrera: .608 (leads AL)
Trout: .564 (third in AL)
Cabrera: 1.001 (leads AL)
Trout: .963 (second in AL)
- Stolen Bases
Trout: 48 (leads AL)
Those are all pretty impressive numbers from both players. But a second look reveals the more impressive body of work from Cabrera.
Of those 11 categories, Cabrera leads the American League in five and is second in the league in two more; Trout leads the American League in only runs and stolen bases. Cabrera doesn't only lead the AL in many of these statistics; he leads all of Major League Baseball in home runs, RBI, SLG, OPS and batting average.
If we want to use more in-depth stats, the two are nearly break-even again. Cabrera ranks second in MLB in runs created this year (138, behind only Ryan Braun's 142), while Trout ranks third (136). In adjusted OPS+ Trout is second in baseball (170, behind only Buster Posey's 171), while Cabrera ranks third (166).
Trout's defensive ability cannot be ignored, and his WAR of 10.7 is unthinkable from a 21-year-old (or anyone else for that matter). Cabrera's WAR is 6.8, which ranks third in the AL; Robinson Cano is between the two with a WAR of 7.6.
However, there are a couple other distinctions that I believe are important when considering the MVP.
First,while Trout has received more national attention, Cabrera has simply been the better offensive player in the second half of the season. With a level playing field (removing Trout's late arrival in the first half from the equation) and looking only at the second half of the season, Cabrera has more hits, doubles, home runs and RBI, has 32 fewer strikeouts, and has a better batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS.
Secondly, one of these two will play past Game 162 this year. While Trout has been individually overwhelming, his team has been arguably the greatest disappointment in the game this year. Cabrera's Tigers, meanwhile, won the Central Division last night and will taste October for a second straight year. Call me old school, but I believe an MVP from a team that isn't headed to the postseason needs to blow away the rest of the league to win the honor. While Trout is having an amazing year, Cabrera is the one blowing away the league.
Finally, there is the idea of the Triple Crown.
There is a very good chance that Cabrera could win the Triple Crown in all of baseball this year, not only the American League. While some might want to pass off the Triple Crown as an antiquated, fictitious award, the fact that no player has achieved the feat since 1967 speaks to how hard it is to accomplish.
I purposefully made a deep case for Cabrera before bringing up the Triple Crown because, while I am enamored with the prestige of the feat, I do not believe that it alone should earn Cabrera the MVP. But the full body of work produced by Cabrera this season is more than enough for him to win the award in 2012.